Science fiction writers are doing their jobs perhaps too well. The ideas they come up with seem so wonderful and amazing that real life engineers pounce upon them and make real, working hardware out of them. We have reported before on progress being made in the area of universal translators, but this one is so slick that we can probably just cross “universal translator” off of science fiction fans’ bucket lists.
The Pilot is a pair of earpieces, and an app which runs from a smart phone. The company behind it is Waverly Labs, and they will be opening their IndieGogo campaign on May 25. The Pilot is expected to cost something around $250 to $300 (that’s presumably for two earpieces plus the driver app) and it comes in three colors, red, white and black. It’s essentially a practical implementation of the Babel Fish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, wherein you stick this slimey little fish in your ear and it eats the sound of speech and excretes a connection to the speech center in your brain that allows you to understand any spoken language.
If both participants used Bluetooth earpieces and ran their conversation through Skype’s real time language translation feature, it would give them approximately the same result, though probably not anywhere near this slick. We have also had the Google Translate app for a while now, which can do essentially the same thing. It’s slow, and cumbersome, and doesn’t actually put the sound directly in your ear, but it works.
The advantage here seems to be that the data translation runs through only one app, not two, so it’s bound to be faster. It’s still going to be dependent on having a good strong signal on your smart phone. Still, apparently it works well enough that you can have a conversation with another person even if they don’t speak your language. The initial version will support English, Spanish, Italian and French. Since it’s an app doing the heavy lifting, presumably more languages can be added later without having to purchase anything else to make it work.
And you science fiction writers out there, a message: think faster. They’re gaining on us.